My Toyota Corolla has a problem that has stumped three...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 1979 Toyota Corolla has a problem that has stumped three mechanics in Texas where I'm in school. Too frequently, after driving around in the hot Texas sun, I will not be able to restart my automatic car following a short stop. When I turn the key, all I hear is a "click." If I let the engine cool for 20-30 minutes, it will eventually start like nothing was ever wrong. However, the quick trip to the grocery store has now taken a good hour, and strange, macho men keep wanting to give me a jump start. Getting a jump start works most of the time (for the car, that is!). Please don't say I need a new starter, since I've had two rebuilt ones installed in as many years. All three mechanics said they had to see the car while it was not starting. When it finally happened for one of them, he announced that the car was too hot to work on. I don't know why he's in Texas. Please help me! I'm a graduate student and I may never get out of school--or even the parking lot--unless Texas freezes over.

RAY: Well, I wouldn't count on Texas freezing over, Ramona. I spent a couple of years there, and the chances of that are pretty slim. A little better than the chances my brother will pick up the tab for dinner sometime in the next 20 years.

TOM: I know you don't want to hear that you need a new starter, Ramona, but I think that's exactly what you need... along with one additional item: A heat shield. The rebuilt starters you bought probably did not come with heat shields, and what's happening is that they're getting cooked.

RAY: This is a classic problem with this particular Toyota engine. The starter is too close to the hot exhaust manifold, and without that heat shield, the starter heats up and an open circuit develops. Then when you turn the key, the solenoid "clicks," but the starter doesn't engage.

TOM: Your current starter is probably ruined by now. So you need to go to a Toyota dealer and get a genuine Toyota starter with a heat shield. That ought to solve the problem.

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